What's the Difference Between These Masks?

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A Variety of High Quality Scuba Diving Masks

Glass and Silicon Scuba Diving Masks High quality scuba diving masks. From left to right, top to bottom: Cressi Focus, Oceanic Ion, ScubaPro Crystal Vu Plus With Purge, Cressi Minima, ScubaPro Spectra Mini, Oceanic Sniper, ScubaPro Orbit, Cressi Big Eyes Evolution, Hollis M1 Onyx. Images reproduced with the permission of Cressi, ScubaPro and Oceanic.

Scuba Diving Mask Styles and Features

Choosing a new scuba diving mask can be overwhelming! Don't just rush out to a local dive shop and grab the first mask that fits. Mask selection is one of the most important equipment-related decisions a diver can make. Understand the basic differences between the various styles of scuba diving masks, and have a clear idea of what features you are looking for prior to going mask shopping.

More mask information:

• How to Tell If a Mask Fits
•  Mask Review: Cressi Big Eyes Evolution Mask
• Mask Review: OmerSub Alien Mask

Quality scuba diving masks should have tempered glass lenses and silicon straps and skirts (the part of the mask that seals to a diver's face). Plastic lenses may scratch and warp easily, and are not sufficiently durable for scuba diving. High quality silicon skirts and straps are flexible and seal well to a diver's face. Harder, plastic skirts may buckle or press on a diver's face uncomfortably.

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Two Window Masks

Scuba Diving Mask Styles and Features Examples of two window scuba diving masks: the Cressi Occhio Plus (left) and the Oceanic Sniper (right). Images reproduced with the permission of Cressi and Oceanic.

Two window masks are characterized by two separate panes of glass held together by a frame which separates the windows. Depending upon the design, these masks can bring the the lenses very close to the divers face and help reduce the internal volume of the mask, which makes it easier to clear and to equalize. When selecting a two window mask, make sure that the mask frame does not press against the bridge of your nose.

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One Window Masks

Scuba Diving Mask Styles and Features Examples of one window scuba diving masks: the Hollis M1 Onyx (left) and the ScubaPro Orbit (right). Images reproduced with the permission of Oceanic and ScubaPro.

One window masks have one continuous pane of tempered glass. For many divers, it is easier to see out of this style of mask than out of a two window mask because there is no frame running between the diver's eyes. Depending upon the design and fit of a single window mask, it can leave plenty of space between the the lens and the bridge of a diver's nose, or it can run right up against it.

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Side Window Masks

Scuba Diving Mask Styles and Features The ScubaPro Clear Vu Plus is an example of a side window scuba diving mask. Image reproduced with the permission of ScubaPro.

Side window masks have two additional panes of glass arranged on the sides of the mask. The side windows allow additional light into the mask, and increase the diver's field of vision. These masks tend to have a larger internal volume (hold more air) than other mask styles, which means they require more air to equalize and clear of water.

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Low Volume/ Free Diving Masks

Scuba Diving Mask Styles and Features Examples of low volume scuba diving masks: the Cressi Minima (left) and the ScubaPro Frameless (right). Images reproduced with the permission of Cressi and ScubaPro.

Low volume masks have been designed to have very little space between a diver's face and the mask glass. This means they hold very little air, which can be a huge advantage. Low volume masks require less air to equalize and clear.

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Masks With a Wide Field Of Vision

Scuba Diving Mask Styles and Features Examples of scuba diving masks with a wide field of vision: the Cressi Big Eyes Evolution (left) and the ScubaPro Orbit (right). Images reproduced with the permission of Cressi and ScubaPro.

Many scuba diving masks have teardrop-shaped or elongated lenses which are designed to increase a diver's field of vision. This can make it easier for a diver to spot animals and read gauges without turning his head.

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Masks With Purge Valves

Scuba Diving Mask Styles and Features The ScubaPro Crystal Vu Plus With Purge mask is an example of a scuba diving mask with a purge valve. Image reproduced with the permission of ScubaPro.

A purge valve is a one-way valve built into the nose of a mask to facilitate clearing water from the mask. It eliminates the need for a diver to look up when clearing his mask. While some divers love this feature, many feel it is unnecessary. Purge valves can make it more difficult pinch the nose during equalization. They add an extra failure point to the mask, because if they break (which is uncommon) the whole mask will flood. A purge valve is an additional luxury or a unnecessary excess, depending upon the point of view.

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Masks With Optical Lenses

Scuba Diving Mask Styles and Features The Cressi Focus is an example of a scuba diving mask designed for use with corrective lenses. Image reproduced with the permission of Cressi.

Many manufacturers offer masks which can accommodate a wide variety of corrective lenses. Divers who wear glasses or contact lenses should consider requesting a mask with this capability. Dive shops can sometimes order masks with a customized prescription directly from the manufacturer. Some masks are created so that the user can change the lenses with just a screwdriver.

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Silicon Color

Scuba Diving Mask Styles and Features Examples of scuba diving masks with different colors of silicon. The Cressi Big Eye Evolution Crystal has extremely clear and soft silicon (left) while the ScubaPro Solara has high quality black silicon (right). Images reproduced with the permission of Cressi and ScubaPro.

Mask skirts should be made of high quality, flexible silicon. Most manufacturers offer extremely flexible and pliable silicon on their high-end masks, and many have developed special brand names for their particular silicon blend. The softer and more flexible the silicon, the better the mask will seal to a variety of face shapes, and the more comfortable it will be. The color of silicon is also important. Clear silicon will let more light into the mask from the sides, and black silicon will allow less light in. Try on masks with both black and clear silicon to determine your preference.

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Small Fit Masks

Scuba Diving Mask Styles and Features The ScubaPro Spectra Mini is an example of an adult mask for small faces. Image reproduced with the permission of ScubaPro.

Increasingly popular, many manufacturers now offer smaller versions of their standard masks, designed to fit smaller faces. This is a great option for adults with smaller faces who want the high quality design and features not available in some children's masks.

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Strap Attachment

Scuba Diving Mask Style and Features Different scuba diving mask strap attachments. Images reproduced with the permission of Cressi, Oceanic, and ScubaPro.

Masks have different attachments for the straps. Some attach to the mask frames, and some attach to the skirt. Different mask models by the same manufacturer may feature different attachments, so the ones shown here are only examples. The Cressi strap attachment (image 1) is designed to rotate up and down as well as in and out, which may make it more comfortable for a wider variety of head shapes. It can also be squeezed to allow for easy adjustment even during a dive. The Oceanic strap attachment (image 2) features a quick release button, which makes it easy to get the mask off without pulling it over the head. The ScubaPro strap attachment (image 3) is a more traditional design. Although it is more difficult to slide the strap through the attachment to adjust it, once adjusted the strap is less likely to slip. As there are fewer moving parts in this attachment, there are fewer pieces to break, which makes this a very durable design.